Joseph Edward Southall: Changing the Letter (detail)
8 in stock.
image courtesy of Birmingham Museums Trust
Joseph Southall (1861-1944) was a leading figure in the nineteenth and early twentieth-century revival of painting in tempera. He was the leader of the Birmingham Group of Artist-Craftsmen - one of the last outposts of Romanticism in the visual arts, and an important link between the later Pre-Raphaelites and the turn of the century Slade Symbolists. A lifelong Quaker, Southall was an active socialist and pacifist, initially as a radical member of the Liberal Party and later of the Independent Labour Party.
He undertook several tours in Europe, including thirteen weeks in Italy which was to have a profound impact on his later work. The frescoes of Benozzo Gozzoli were to inspire a deep admiration for the painters of the Italian Renaissance who - before the practice of oil painting spread to Italy from Northern Europe in the sixteenth century - worked largely in egg-based tempera. Southall's choice of medium was heavily informed by his Arts and Crafts belief that the physical act of creation was as important as the act of design. Aesthetically egg tempera provided the luminescence and jewel-like quality that had been so sought after by the Pre-Raphaelites (who never themselves perfected the technique), but it also gave him the opportunity to fashion his own materials by hand. To obtain the egg yolks required he even kept his own chickens.
In common with other Birmingham Group members Southall also practiced a variety of crafts besides painting, including murals, furniture decoration, lacework, book illustration and engravings. Many of his paintings have frames featuring decorative work by his wife or other Birmingham Group figures - such decoration was considered integral to the work of art.
the above text appears on the back of the card HC-1008: card size 6" x 6" (150mm x 150mm)